Initial allocations for student organizations hit record low due to budget cuts

The Student Association Senate’s finance committee Monday reported a record-low fulfillment of student organization funding requests due to budget cuts.

Nathan Nguyen, the director of the Legislative Budget Office and an ad hoc member of the committee, said student organizations requested about $2.2 million for the spring semester, but the SA’s budget consists of about $343,000, only 16.75 percent of the amount requested. He said most student organizations received between two and 10 percent of the amount they requested.

“Everyone will say that their org didn’t get funded,” he said. “No one’s org got funded as sufficiently as we would like to, and that’s simply because of these numbers.”

Nguyen said the finance committee declined requests to fund large events because those requests can be submitted via cosponsorships, which the finance committee considers separately on a rolling basis from another fund. Events for more than 350 students can receive funding from the University-Wide Programs Fund, which officials established this year from funds that formerly would have gone to the SA’s budget.

He said the finance committee tried to preserve the “operations” of student organizations by prioritizing funds for online subscriptions and national dues over funds for events and lodging. He said organizations asked for more funding than the SA could provide.

“They asked for a lot of things that we simply can’t fund, either per University mandate or SA bylaw mandate,” he said.

Nguyen said next semester, the finance committee will host a “crash course” for student organizations on SA financial allocation processes. He said he and SA Sen. Linsi Goodin, CCAS-G and the chair of the finance committee, completed allocations over the course of 72 hours, reviewing about 2,300 line items.

Nguyen said former SA Sen. Ian Ching, the former chair of the finance committee who resigned at the last meeting, delayed the general allocations process, meaning the finance committee had to deliberate on allocations quickly to meet its revised deadline.

“The way that we did this process was because of the short timeframe,” he said. “Typically, this committee would have about 10 calendar days to do deliberations, and because of the last chairperson’s schedule that was set, we had 72 hours.”

Goodin said 296 student organizations submitted funding applications this year, an increase from the 274 requests last fall and the 244 requests last spring.

SA President Christian Zidouemba said he had concerns about the transparency of the recent allocations process because his treasurer was not permitted to attend meetings. Zidouemba said he was specifically concerned with how many finance committee members were actively involved and how much of the process was deferred to the legislative budgeting office.

“Sadly, I do not believe that the finance committee allowed transparency through the process and to hear different voices through the process,” Zidouemba said.

Zidouemba said in a statement to The Hatchet that he was “concerned” that the finance committee took less than an hour to approve allocations. He said the executive branch “will be conducting necessary inquiries” into the allocations process.

“It is our hope that the allocation appeals process before the Committee on Governance and Nominations is conducted with transparency and all relevant parties have the opportunity to create a far more equitable allocation than that proposed by the finance committee,” he said.

Senate Legal Counsel Juan Carlos Mora said executive branch members should not be a part of legislative committee meetings as it is a “violation of separation of powers.”

SA Vice President Yan Xu, the former finance chair, said during the allocations process the finance committee should remain separate from executive oversight. Xu said after the process is completed then the executive can be involved in reviewing the results.

“The executive branch is the agency for auditing to organizations which they have the power and are required to do so,” Xu said. “It is a standard finance logic that the budget and all the things should be separate and not interfering.”

Goodin said the committee spent between 30 and 45 minutes deliberating allocations as a whole after the 72-hour period. SA Sen. Simon Patmore-Zarcone, Law-G, said most funding request denials were determined according to SA bylaws, leaving little room for debate.

The senate unanimously passed the Executive Operational Budget Modification Act, which directs the money formally allocated for online subscriptions, “career development activities” and funding associated with the Cookout with the President to go toward “all unexpected necessary costs” from the executive cabinet’s programming. SA Treasurer Arya Thakur, who sponsored the resolution, said the budget should be more flexible for executive activities that are often planned on short notice.

The SA Senate elected freshman Aanika Veedon, who previously served as the chief parliamentarian in the senate, and junior Daniel Galgano, a former assistant news editor for The Hatchet, to fill undergraduate at-large seats which can be occupied by any undergraduate student. The senate also elected former Senate Chief of Staff Zachary Ragozino to the undergraduate Elliott School of International Affairs seat formerly occupied by Ching.

In her speech to senators, Veedon highlighted a policy priority will be to increase GW’s support and resources for sexual assault victims. Veedon plans to try and expand access to the sexual assault nurse examiner exam for students by making it available at the GW Hospital.

“I want to expand sexual assault resources on campus by urging the university to encourage GW hospital to provide rape kits,” Veedon said. “There’s currently only one hospital in the entirety of the D.C. metropolitan area that offers this service and it takes over an hour to get to using public transportation.”

Only MedStar Washington Hospital Center provides rape kits in the District.

Veedon said students have asked the University to provide rape kits “for more than a decade.” In 2007, a student filed a lawsuit against GW, GW Hospital, Howard University, Howard University Hospital and the District, alleging that they prevented her from receiving a medical examination for rape.

Veedon said the University of Wisconsin-Madison provides rape kits for students. Its health center provides the examinations at no cost.

The senate also elected Ragozino to be chair of the Physical Facilities and Urban Affairs committee, which works with campus services like mail delivery. The senate also confirmed SA Sen. Kai Simson, CPS-G, as the chair for the Graduate Education Policy committee.

Simson served as acting chair of the committee after SA Sen. Linsi Goodin, CCAS-G, resigned from the position to serve as the finance and allocations chair.

The senate confirmed Izzy Brophy as the executive secretary for campus services, which works with campus provisions like housing. The senate confirmed Matthew Debellis as an associate judge for the Student Court and Ishana Bandyopadhyay as senate chief of staff.

The associate judge position has been open since the former judge resigned on Sept. 5.

Xu said he is reaching out to student organizations and administration about expanding all access bathrooms on campus. Xu said Thurston Hall’s all access bathrooms serve as a model the SA would like to see adopted in older campus buildings to be more inclusive for students.

Xu said a timeline has not yet been determined for this initiative.

“It’s often necessary to ensure that all students are comfortable and represented, which is currently not the case because of some of our buildings on campus,” Xu said.

Zidouemba said the University raised over $31,000 on Giving Tuesday.

The next senate meeting will be held on Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. over Zoom.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.